Chapter One: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Australian National University

Going on exchange while the Coronavirus is spreading in the world isn’t a fun thing. I did not want to start the blog with the virus, however, without all the troubles prior to the beginning of my semester abroad, the story will not be completed. 

After taking the final exam at Manchester, I took a flight the next day back to China, planning to stay home for seven days during Chinese New Year and then embark on a journey to Australia. However, it was at that time that the Coronavirus outbreak started in China. On the 1stof February, after I checked in at the airport and started shopping in the duty-free area, my friends texted me that Scott Morrison has set a travel ban for visitors from China. “Are you kidding me?” I walked to the airport departure board and saw flights to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane… all cancelled! 

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As you can imagine what happened next, the airport turned into a huge mess. People queuing for luggage, staff unloading and distributing them to the passengers. Each individual was wearing a mask, pushing through the crowd to get their luggage. I felt like even a healthy person could get sick or be affected under that circumstance. I finally got home with all my luggage, tired like a horse. 

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It was a Saturday night, I sent emails to anyone who I thought may help. I kept telling myself to calm down, wait at least until Monday to see what they will reply. However,  I also worried that with one more day of hesitation, Britain will shut their door. Friends at uni texted me: “Hey, Ziqi. You can still come back to Manchester. Don’t have to gap.” Was this it? Were all my efforts for exchange ended up in this way? It was one of the most difficult weeks in my life. I was desperate: checked news, checked email boxes, texted Australian oversea students in China…

After struggling for one week, I weighted different options and decided to go to Thailand with two other girls for 14 days of isolation. It was my third time going to Thailand. Upon leaving there, I promised myself to never visit Thailand again. 

Hope is an important thing. Once there is hope, you will feel much better. In the flat we rented, we cooked, watched movies, chatted, and counted the 14 days down. It is true that plans can never keep up with changes. Just as I first planned to get to ANU campus early and mix up with all other students, I have now undergone an unexpected two-week vacation and missed O-week.  

THE EAST COAST

By Issy Jackson (University of Sydney, Australia)

THE EAST COAST

Whether you’re going from Cairns to Sydney or Sydney to Cairns, there’s so much to do when travelling the East Coast of Australia. No matter how long you’re planning to go for, here are some of the places that you can’t miss. From North to South, I’ll take you through some of the classic destinations as well as some of the lesser well-known experiences that I heard about from other Backpackers!

Magnetic Island

Just a short ferry off the coast of Townsville, Magnetic Island is the perfect place to spend a few nights to explore. Its small bus system is easy enough to get from one side of the island to the other, but if that’s not your thing then you can also hire one of the infamous open-top Barbie Cars that are so popular! Here, the Base Hostel is one of the nicest I’ve been to with loads of social areas right by the beach. Everyone will be talking about The Forts Walk and how many koala bears they saw!!

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Hellfire Bay, Magnetic Island

Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays

You can’t do the East Coast without going to the Whitsundays – I liked it so much that I went twice! Airlie Beach is a little town that is based on Whitsunday tourism, so everyone you meet will be talking about which boat they’re about to go on which makes a really sociable atmosphere. I recommend doing one of the three-night boat cruises. It gives you the chance to make lots of friends as well as having loads of opportunities to go snorkeling with turtles, banana-boating and even scuba-diving. Of course, you’ll also get to see some of the whitest sand in the world at Whitehaven Beach too!

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Airlie Beach, Queensland

Broken River, Mackay

I heard about Broken River from two girls I met on Magnetic Island. This is not a typical tourist stop on East Coast Itineraries, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. After driving up a beautiful mountain in Eungella National Park land, you can walk along Broken River which is full of wildlife. Not only can you watch turtles swimming, but it’s a platypus habitat! I never thought I’d get to sit and have a picnic in the sun while watching platypuses swimming next to me.

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Eungella National Park, Mackay

Tin Can Bay

Another well-kept secret on the East Coast is Tin Can Bay. This was one of the most surreal experiences of my trip. We heard about Tin Can Bay from a family that we met on Fraser Island and they said it was the highlight of their holiday! Essentially, you drive to Barnacles Dolphin Centre which is a little family-run café right on the Bay that has a resident pod of nine Humpback Dolphins. You can get some breakfast or a coffee while the volunteers stand in the water and share information on each member of the pod. From about 8:00am, the dolphins gradually all come and sit in the water next to the volunteers! There’s no exhibition or captivity. Rather, the dolphins come back every day where they play about in the water with the volunteers and guests get a chance to feed them fish. It was so interesting to hear about the personalities of each dolphin from the volunteers, then actually get to meet the dolphins ourselves!

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Barnacles Dolphin Centre, Tin Can Bay

Noosa

I’ve decided that I’m going to live in Noosa one day. For me, it’s one of the most beautiful National Parks in Australia. One of the best parts about Noosa Heads is the Coastal Walk. You pass amazing bays every five minutes and what’s even better is that they are all great for a surf. The paths are full of both walkers and surfers who use the National Park to access their favourite surf spots. It doesn’t stop there! There’s also barbecues dotted around the walks so there’s always a chance to get a feed in after being in the water! Make sure you follow the walk all the way to Hell’s Gate – the views are amazing.

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Noosa, Queensland

Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is a really interesting city. It’s got beautiful estuaries with hostels dotted around the waters so there’s plenty of chance for fun activities on the water. My favourite part was going to SkyPoint in the Q1 Building – it’s one of the tallest buildings in the world so the views are just incredible. For around $30, you can go up to the Observation Deck and have an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, so you can watch the waves roll in while having your bacon and eggs in the morning from around 70 stories high!

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Sky Point, Q1 Building, Gold Coast

Study Abroad Reflections on Return

I have been back in Manchester for a semester since living in Australia for one year. I have learned so much from moving away and living on the other side of the world. Studying abroad is such an amazing and unique way to grow academically and personally in a short period of time.

Before I moved to Australia I really believed that I would be heartbroken when I left but I wasn’t. I was so grateful for the experiences, opportunities, and friends that I had made but I was excited to come back home. Studying abroad has made me realise how small the world really is. A flight across the world only takes one day! Since being back in Manchester I have had two Aussie friends come and visit me and have Facetimed with others almost daily. On reflection I wish I hadn’t been so worried about leaving as I am so happy to be back in Manchester!

Another reflection upon returning is how quickly a year passes. It only feels like last month that I was writing my application to study abroad and attending all of the pre-departure sessions. I can’t believe that I am already back. One tip I will give that is a bit cliche is say yes to everything! Your time flies by and you will regret the socials you didn’t go to and the trips that you missed to stay in and study.

The highlight of my year in Australia was definitely all of the travelling and trips that I did! I would recommend saving some money for road trips and spontaneous holidays as they really made the year. It is depressing to write this post in rainy dark Manchester knowing that this time last year I was in Bali.

Studying abroad is the best thing I have done during my time at university and I would recommend it to anyone. I would say go into your exchange with zero expectations. Don’t worry about the small details as you will look back after a year and wonder why you were so worried about them. Join societies, travel as much as you can and enjoy yourself as before you know it you will be back in Manchester.

 

 

An Ode to Rotto

Where: Rottnest Island, Western Australia.

When: November 2018 (Coming into Australian summertime, so it was hot!)

Rottnest Island a ferry ride away from Perth, is one of the ‘must see’ places I had been told to visit since I moved to Western Australia. For any of my fellow geographers, Rottnest is a sandy, low-lying island formed on a base of aeolianite limestone. Alongside Garden Island, Rotto is a remnant of Pleistocene dune ridge. The island was separated from the mainland about 7000 years ago due to sea level rise. However, human remnants have been found on the island dating back 70,000 years. The indigenous people of land known as the Noongar people, call the island Wadjemup and lived on the island before it detached from the mainland.

 The island is around 20km and we managed to explore it in a day. We hired bikes, stopping off and enjoying hidden beaches throughout the day. However, we plan to go back for a weekend and camp over-night.  The wildlife in Rottnest is what makes it so special. Extensive reefs surround the island, that you can see in the incredibly clear water as you arrive by ferry, and snorkel in the warm waters. Bottlenose dolphins and migrating humpbacks are welcome visitors of the island and the Perth canyon just off the island is one of the main habitats for blue whales in Australia.

Overall, the absolute highlight of Rottnest or as the Aussies call it Rotto. Aside from the great views, beautiful beaches, amazing snorkelling or enjoyable cycling tracks are the super friendly quokkas. These little creatures are marsupials, and like kangaroos carry their joey’s in their pouches. They are about the size of a cat and just as friendly, allowing you to approach them seemingly unfazed by humans. The island actually gets its name from the Quokka. In the 1600’s Dutch colonisers believed the Quokkas to be giant rats, and thus named the small island ‘Rotte Nest’ after the Dutch word Rattennest meaning rats nest. Rotto is one of the few areas in the world where the native quokka can be found. This is due to the exclusion of natural or introduced predators. Their only predators being snakes, who thankfully aren’t as friendly.

Known as ‘the worlds happiest animal’, Quokkas are celebrities on the island with many trying to get a quick pic with the creature.

The picture that made the Quokka famous (2012).

Roger Federer and a Quokka.

If you close one eye and squint, it looks like Michael Buble and a Quokka.

I can’t wait to go back and visit this rare and uniquely beautiful island, and hopefully meet up with some more Quokkas.

Breath-taking nature views of Australia

When talking about Australia, the first thing that comes into mind is… Kangaroo! Well, yes, kangaroo, but what got me most excited before coming here was the amazing weather and nature. That was why I arrived ten days before the beginning of the first study week, and went on a road trip with my friend.

 

It was a trip along the east coast of Australia, starting from Canberra and ending in Gold Coast. We rented a car from Hertz, which seemed to be the only company leasing cars to younger drivers. Price is quite fair, and fuel in Australia is cheap. So overall, driving is a more economic (and surely more fun) way to travel than flying.

 

One of the great things about the road trip is that you get to appreciate the various landscapes of this huge continent. When we started from Canberra, the landscape was more of a dry one. Along the road was dry and yellow grassland, dotted by low, often strange shaped trees and bushes. I reckon that was because Canberra does not have coast. As we got near Sydney, the plant cover started to become denser. Above half way from Sydney to Gold Coast, landscape turned even greener. The veg cover made the sunset beautiful, like this…

 

 

 

 

We went to many famous tourist attractions during that trip and certainly saw many awesome views. The first being the famous Bondi beach in Sydney. A bit of a disappointment – it was not as nice as people say. It is a bit over-crowded: we went there on Tuesday and still, the beach was full of people. However, if you go along the beach, and turn to the cliff beside it, there was something different.

 

However, what truly amazed me was not any of these places. One night, as we drove from Sydney to Gold Coast, we pulled over to take a rest. And when we looked up to the sky, we saw the ‘milky way’. You can see the belt so clearly. There was no word to describe the scene, as human seemed so insignificant compared to those mysterious lights, which have been there for millions of centuries. I managed to take a photo, but it did even touch the true glory of what I saw in person. I wish I had a better camera. (and a tripod)

 

Gold coast certainly lived up to its name. Premium beach can be found anywhere. If you are a surfer, you do not want to miss this city. One funny thing about Gold Coast: it sits on the border between Queensland state and New South Wales state. These two states have different day light saving time systems. That means, Queensland, despite having the same longitude as NSW, it is one hour behind NSW. So don’t forget to check you phone/watch to adjust for that. Our hotel was right on the border. More specifically, the border lies between my bed and the night table. Every night I left my phone to charge on night table, it woke me up next morning at NSW time. And when I went downstairs to have breakfast, the clock on my phone jumped back one hour, showing Queensland time. I lost quite a few hours of sleep there…

This will be the first of three blogs showing you guys how beautiful Australian nature is. See you next blog.

 

— Hanqin

Reflections.

By Olivia Smith, History, Australian National University, Australia.

Ok so I may have been putting off writing this blog for as long as possible because it’s actually so sad that my Australian adventure is officially over. But, I’m back in England and over the jet lag (good luck with that to any future travellers), and feel like now is as good a time as ever to document the highs of my study abroad, in the best country in the world (not lying).

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Sunset over Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra

Continue reading “Reflections.”

ANU Accommodation Options.

By Olivia Smith, History, Australian National University, Australia.

So before I came to Canberra I had pretty much no idea where I should apply to stay, which college would be best for me, or whether I should even stay in college at all. I kinda wish I had a little more guidance when applying for residence just because at the time I felt like I had literally picked a random place out a hat. Luckily for me I ended up loving where I picked but I figured I’d write a little guide so that anyone else going to ANU wouldn’t feel so baffled.

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ANU Campus

Continue reading “ANU Accommodation Options.”

Exams At ANU.

By Olivia Smith, History, Australian National University, Australia.

At a time when most of my friends back home have already finished their exams and summer celebrations are well underway, Canberra is 1 degree centigrade and I only have 1/3rd of  my exams out the way. Even so, as I sit in the study room at 9am, trying to whip up the academic motivation I lost as soon as I stepped on the plane in February, I’m keen to explain that exams here at ANU really aren’t so bad. A productive form of revision procrastination if I do say so myself…

Continue reading “Exams At ANU.”

‘O-Week’ at ANU.

By Olivia Smith, History, Australian National University, Australia.

Day 17 of my new adventure and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked “why ANU?” or “why Canberra?”. To begin with, the question was actually quite hard to answer, and I did admit several times that ANU wasn’t actually at the top of my list. But now, after spending ‘O-week’ (Fresher’s) and a week of classes at my new Uni, I can seriously say I wouldn’t chose anywhere different given the choice. This is a blog for those of you who like me, don’t end up with your preferred university for study abroad, and a reassurance that despite the cliché, everything really does happen for a reason.

Continue reading “‘O-Week’ at ANU.”

6. Brekkie and Breakfast

By Jellaby Lai (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

“Where is the sun?”, I screamed inside my head whenwalking out of the plane at Manchester airport. It took me a few minutes before accepting the fact that I was back in Manchester, the driest place on earth. Having lived in few different places, spending a few months in a new country is not new to me. However, each time I was shocked to see how my body and mind unconsciously adapted to the environment without noticing. Since Australia and the UK share the same language and Australian culture has largely been influenced by British settlers arriving in 1788, this hugely minimised the degree of culture shock I experienced. Personally, I wouldn’t say I have suffered from any culture shock, but it took me a while to respond to ‘Good day’ (Australian way of saying hello) naturally and get used to the Aussie accent. On my return to Manchester, I continued using words like ‘heaps’ (a lot) and ‘brekkie’ (breakfast) until having received a fair amount of odd looks.

Compared to Canberra, Manchester is more dynamic. I love them both. I missed the natural beauty of Canberra, Lake Burley Griffin by the side of my campus, the Black Mountain at the back of my hall and its climate. I like the excitement and convenience Manchester has to offer. I was surrounded by people in Canberra most of the time and I have a more independent life in Manchester. I took a few weeks to get used to the quietness in my flat.

Spending time in another prestigious university has given me motivation to work harder and inspired me to try out new things. I have become a more flexible and adaptable person than ever. I have learnt to see and think in different perspective, to challenge my comfort zone and to stay calm in unexpected situations.

This is my final blog about my study abroad experience in Australia. I very much appreciate this opportunity offered by the University and the International Programmes Office. I absolutely understand studying abroad may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I can’t emphasise enough the benefits of doing it. The preparation and application process maybe long and time-consuming, but it definitely worth it!

5. Reflection on my time at Australian National University (ANU)

By Jellaby Lai (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

Ummm, I have no idea where to start. It has been a crazy, joyful and adventurous six months. So much has been learnt and so many bonds have been made.

From the moment I landed in this wonderful, sunny land to the time I had to start packing and say farewell to my friends and the animals (spiders not included) around my hall, not even one second did I halt and think. Now, sitting in front of my laptop (equivalent to a smartwatch in this generation), memories start to sink in and I can’t help but giggle. Reflecting on my study abroad journey helps me think critically about what I have done and why, and learn self-evaluation.

Academic:

I studied abroad in the second semester of my second year. Because of the complexity of course matching, I had to take two second year and two third year courses at ANU. The third year courses were demanding and I had underestimated them at the start of semester. I would have put more time in studying to prevent pulling endless all-nighters. It is important to experience life as much as possible. But in the end,  a good work-life balance will lead to success.

Non-academic:

I was fortunate to be allocated in one of the most inclusive, welcoming and fun halls on campus. Sharing a big kitchen with other four hundred something residents gave me opportunities to social with so many different people. We spent day and night in there, laughing and cooking together. There were all kind of activities organised by the hall committee. I had tried out new sports and went to basketball training (no fear being the shortest player in the team). Everyone was very supportive and I had acquired some new skills and explored a different side of myself. More importantly, I have made some life-long friends.

I would definitely study abroad again if there is a chance!